Religion and Character Education

This topic seems to be a sticky one among education professionals. Yet most Americans would describe themselves as “religious” people, belonging to one of the many faiths represented in this country.

Some parents and educators might assume that talking about religious subjects in school is forbidden by the Constitution.

Not so! The First Amendment to the Constitution goes as follows:

” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This document upholds the original desire of America’s Founding Fathers: to freely express opinions in a public forum. To be able to speak out about the government, or any issue on our minds is a right most other people around the world do not have.

Freedom of Religion
One misunderstood section of the First Amendment is this first item. Did you know that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution, the Amendments, or any other legal documents by the Founding Fathers?
The idea of such a “separation” came out of a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of church members who wanted him to clear up the issue of religion found in the First Amendment. See also this article about how private schools are waiting to make changes in the U.S.

Freedom of Speech
This freedom includes the right to speak out about your opinions on any subject. With the exception of slander or libel (harming someone’s reputation with untruthful words), you can say just about anything.
With that right comes the responsibility to protect the freedoms of other people. That means we can allow hate groups to speak their minds, even though we disagree with them. You’ll also find this topic addressed in many online education programs though there some myths out there.

Freedom of the Press
Our Founding Fathers knew that a free press was important to a free nation. In countries with oppressive dictators, the press is run by that leader’s party and there is no freedom to write or publish dissenting opinions. This may become an important issue in various audio/video production courses.
For journalism students at high school and college, Freedom of the Press gets challenged by administrators and parents. Right or wrong, this conflict is what teaches young people about the responsibility of the press to be truthful and unbiased.

Freedom of Assembly
When a dictator sees a group of people gathered to protest his leadership, he either hides away or orders the protestors arrested or shot. Our Founding Fathers knew that Freedom of Assembly meant the exchange of ideas, which is healthy in a free country. That’s why we allow even hateful groups to have their time to gather, as long as they are peaceful. For those who couldn’t complete high school, read this article about Timothy Ferris and GED preparation.

Freedom to Petition the Government
This allows all citizens the ability to say just what they think about the government. There is no fear of being hunted down and arrested in the middle of the night, which happens to outspoken people in countries that are not free. Help your children understand their rights as protected by the First Amendment.

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